October 30, 2013 9:54:59 AM
Seonkyoung Longest of Columbus is wasting no time in pursuing her culinary passion. After earning an apron as one of the top 40 home cooks out of 40,000 original aspirants on "MasterChef" Season 4, which premiered in May, the 29-year-old military spouse is now one of nine contestants selected for "Restaurant Express," a new Food Network program hosted by Robert Irvine. It premieres Sunday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. central time.
Born and raised in South Korea, Longest moved to the United States in 2009 when her husband, Jacob, was assigned to Columbus Air Force Base. Separated from family and friends, Longest grappled with feelings of isolation and depression. She struggled with the language barrier, but discovered a unique way to improve her English -- the Food Network.
The cooking channel not only helped Longest with a new language, it fueled an interest in cooking. Interest? Make that zeal. Longest began cooking, then customizing recipes -- especially Asian-inspired recipes -- and before long was posting her experiences online. Her "Happy Cooking with Seonkyoung Longest" site and her YouTube videos have since gained a faithful following, as has her engaging personality.
"I learned how to cook from Food Network (except for Korean food), and I will be on Food Network now? This is a dream come true! I'm so, so excited!" Longest posted on her site. "The host of the show is Robert Irvine, who is very famous for his Food Network shows, 'Restaurant Impossible' and 'Dinner Impossible.'"
The show's premiere features nine finalists setting off on a road trip on the "Restaurant Express" bus. But only one will still have a seat after seven grueling weeks of travel and competition that will test not only their cooking skills but their business savvy as well. The winner will earn the opportunity to help launch and run his or her own dream restaurant in Las Vegas.
As they travel around the west, contestants will face tough challenges, limited budgets, exacting critics and desert heat.
Longest is hoping her new home state, and especially the Golden Triangle, will help vote her in as a fan favorite by casting votes up to 10 times per day at foodnetwork.com/restaurant-express-fan-vote/package/index.html.
"I hope you guys are as excited as I am," Longest posted on her site, thanking supporters for their encouragement.
Learn more about Longest and her recipes at seonkyounglongest.com, or follow her on Facebook.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.